More questions. One question, leads to another, leads to another. Why Christian? Why Jesus? Jesus saved us, so what? What does this salvation stuff mean?
This Sunday is Reformation Sunday and is a time to affirm the teaching of Lutherans that salvation is a gift of God, freely given to all. “We are justified by grace through faith.”
So what does that mean?
Historically, much of the conversation about being saved was focused on life after death. It has been noted that we need to believe Jesus and be baptized in order to have eternal life, to get to heaven after we die.
This message is still powerful today as people die. Yet, in our recent experiences, there is less focus on the afterlife as our own lives are healthier and enhanced now. The scare tactics of heaven and hell don’t necessarily characterize the understanding of God’s grace, compassion, and mercy that is in the world now.
Salvation in Jesus also addresses the issue of guilt. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, the guilt that we experience for not following God’s laws is erased by Jesus. We are made clean. We are made whole. We are made saints. With the love of God through the death and resurrection we are no longer guilty. We are justified. We are set free. Free for what?
Salvation also addresses another concern. In today’s culture, perhaps we are not as concerned about the afterlife and guilt. My impression is that many of us experience a sense of meaninglessness. We long for purpose and direction. We feel emptiness, superfluous, being unneeded or non essential. We might ask, “Why are we here and how do we make a difference?
Here is where I find salvation most meaningful. Through the salvation of Jesus, through his death and resurrection, we are named, claimed, loved, and affirmed as God’s own people. We are loved. We are accepted. We are given the gift of being God’s people. We are named and claimed just the way we are. We trust and know that through God’s profound love made known in Jesus nothing in the entire world can ever change this truth.
Salvation means that we are given life, starting now, not just after we die. We are given life to share the love we know from God with the world. Salvation means that when we mess it up in our trying, the guilt does not win. Our mistakes are forgiven and we dare move forward, living with grace and compassion and love for ourselves and for the world. And salvation means that because we are loved, named as co-creators with God, we engage life now for the sake of justice, compassion, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, and hope.
What does salvation mean? It means we become the hands and feet and voice of God in the world, because God has come to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are saved from death, guilt, and meaninglessness to live with love for the sake of the world.
What do you think? What does salvation mean to you?